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Uncertainty for B.C. growers as EU set to halt some Canadian fruit importTuesday, August 27, 2019 > 09:29:48
EU decision to halt import of some Canadian fruit caught growers by surprise.
B.C. farm growers are facing uncertainty after the European Union’s announcement it will stop importing some Canadian fruits starting Sept. 1.
Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, said his organization was taken by surprise by the news, which they found out from media reports. “It just broke out (last week). It’s a concern,” said Dhaliwal, an Oliver fruit grower.
“Any market that puts restrictions is going to impact your ability to ship your produce outside of Canada, especially when you’re opening up all these different markets.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sent a notice to the industry last week about the new import requirements related to pests from the 28-nation bloc that applies to families of fruits that includes apples, pears, cranberries, blueberries, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
The new requirements do not apply to frozen and dried fruit.
On Friday, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the new rules would apply to all the EU’s trading partners, not just Canada.
Dhaliwal said the new requirements are unclear. His group plans to co-ordinate with other associations, such as the B.C. Cherry Association and the Ontario-based Canadian Horticultural Council to communicate with the food inspection agency to get more information about the rule changes this week.
The new rules won’t affect this year’s cherry exports as the season has just wrapped up for the year, said Dhaliwal. The next season starts in June, giving the association time to figure out what prompted the restrictions, how to alleviate the EU’s concerns, and find solutions.
“I think we’ve got ample time,” he said. “As we get more clarity, we will figure things out.”
In 2018, Canada shipped approximately $3.1 million in cherries to the EU, a growing market for cherry producers in B.C., which has worked to expand crop production to boost exports to the worldwide market overall.
Blueberries remain Canada’s top fruit export, with B.C. producing the majority of the country’s cultivated blueberries.
Jack Bates, chairman of the B.C. Blueberry Council, said most of B.C.’s blueberries stay in Canada or are exported to the United States and China.
If B.C. ships to the EU, the amount is “very little,” he said, which means the province would not be dealt a direct blow by the rule change.
But anytime there is a ban, particularly an unwarranted one, farmers and growers are concerned, said Bates, a Delta farmer who operates in the frozen blueberries market.
Canada’s agriculture sector has already taken a hit from an ongoing trade spat with China, with excluded Canadian exports of beef, pork and canola from its massive market following the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.
In the notice, the CFIA said it is working with industry “to propose pest risk mitigation measures to the EU for these commodities, which may allow exports to resume.”
Bibeau’s office also said the EU had agreed to work with Canada “to establish a systems approach to certify fruit and maintain trade.”
Agricultural and food exports to Europe has increased following the implementation of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Among the increases in exports were organic blueberries, which was up 28 per cent by October 2018, a year after the free trade agreement took effect, according to figures released by Global Affairs Canada.